Our intentions are always good as we tell our friends and relatives, “One day when I have more time, I’m going to write… .” A series of poems, a novel, a memoir, a collection of short stories, a play.
And we never do. Why is this? Are we afraid of being judged for our writing skills and found inadequate? Or will relatives be offended if we don’t paint them as saints on earth? Is it because deep in our souls we feel we have nothing worth writing? Or is it simply because daily living interferes?
If you are one of those persons juggling six or eight balls and you genuinely want to write, you can do it. Fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction?
I’ve been teaching creative writing for a very long time, and I like to recall a wonderful elderly lady in my creative writing classes for senior citizens when I was a young faculty member at Urbana College. One day I was teaching haiku, and she assured me after class that she would never be able to fulfill the homework assignment. My response, “Why?”
Her response, “I detest even thinking about counting syllables, placing them in a certain way on a page, and an image? I don’t even know what you mean.”
“Just try it. See what you can do.”
I knew she was bright. She was an adult during World War II, and she loved toying with words.
The next week she came to class with a smile, “Vivian, I wrote several dozen haikus.”
Now I’m not suggesting that this column is going to be about haiku. It’s not even going to be about poetry. It’s about micro-fiction, stories of no more than 300 words, as few as 100 if you’d like.
Since I started experimenting with this genre, I’ve learned that I can write a draft in five minutes or less. And when the idea for a story I want to write comes, I grab paper and pen and scribble away. I’ve written 15 such stories in November.
Have I proofed and edited them, searched for the right words in the right combination that will make my stories zing? Not yet. And my excuse is that I’ve been too busy with teaching four courses at Edison State, writing a weekly column for seven newspapers, organizing three veterans events, and teaching two courses for telecommunication employees. But I have the essence of the stories recorded. And that is critical.
How do I know micro-fiction might work for you? I began teaching a class this week in micro-fiction to telecommunication employees, and the response from my students has been positive. Paul Beckles, of New York, writes, “I’ve begun a non-fiction one and dreamed up another. I think this is my genre.”
My telecom students have written about a zombie apocalypse, a father with dementia, a girl who hates potato salad and tells her readers why, attendance at a funeral with a service the deceased would have hated, and so much more.
I want to share with you a selection of micro-fiction written by one of my students, J.K. Metz, of Minnesota:
The once bustling big-box store is only a shadow of its former self. My footfalls make faint echoing sounds as I walk across the filthy tile. Half of what remains is torn-up boxes and bubble wrap. The customers descend on the other half made up of merchandise and store fixtures to gobble them up.
“Hey, you,” a nasally woman shouts.
I instinctively look in her direction.
“Yeah, you. Is your best price?” She jostles a box with a picture of a toaster oven on it.
The woman cuts me off. “You know that’s the problem with these liquidation sales. You’ve got to get rid of it, but you don’t mark it down enough.”
“I don’t work here,” I blurt.
“Well, damn it. You shouldn’t dress in those colors to shop here.” She waddles off in search of a new victim.
Ready to try the genre? Want to see more samples? Order “New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction,” edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro, available on Amazon.
Need to be in a writing group to motivate yourself? Call your local library, community college, YWCA to see what’s available. Or start your own group at your neighborhood community center. I’m teaching a fiction writing class at Edison State spring semester. I’m looking forward to all those sessions on alternate Wednesday evenings when we sit in a circle and discuss what we’ve written.
Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teachescommunication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937)778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.